A fan favorite episode and winner of the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, 1997.
Londo is making his way through customs, complaining about the mess everything is in, and particularly about the Narns the station's brought on as extra security, which the Narn checking identicards doesn't much care for and makes the ambassador wait for a couple hours due to a "computer error."
- Londo: Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would have happened if the humans had not started fighting with one another!
The Alexander is in one of those fights right now, with the cruiser Clarkestown in pursuit, and firing a shot that strikes the Alexander amidships. On the bridge, the man in command, Major Ryan, reluctantly authorizes opening fire on the other ship, and the Alexander easily destroys the Clarkestown. Ryan comments on how he met the Clarkestown's CO before — General Hague introduced them — and how this war is different, for now they know everyone they kill. He comments that he'll have to find something to say to both their wives... but for now, the Alexander needs repairs, and there is only one safe port for them: Babylon 5.
This is bad news for the B5 command staff; as soon as the Alexander arrives, their involvement with the anti-Clark movement is going to have to come out. Sheridan has Garibaldi put a kill switch in the comm system so no one can alert anyone as to the Alexander's location, except for one line for them and ISN, their link to home.
Meanwhile, Delenn and Lennier bring Dr. Franklin to a wounded Ranger in the docking bay. They need to get him past security, but they don't know which of the Narns they can trust, but G'Kar, who suddenly appears, does and offer to help.
ISN is running a story on the Mars government refusing to implement the martial law order when the Alexander arrives. The comms are cut, and Sheridan makes an announcement to the C&C crew, taking full responsibility for this course of action, and allows anyone who wishes to leave to do so. No one does.
In Medlab, the Ranger explains that many of the League of Non-Aligned worlds have allied with the Shadows and are making war with each other, and the Grey Council has decided not to intervene.
Major Ryan meets with Sheridan and gives them a rundown of the situation, and it's not good. General Hague is dead, killed in the fight with the Clarkestown, and public opinion is actually in favor of martial law, since it actually seems to be a benefit, and ISN can't say too much or they'll be shut down. The only hope is Mars' refusal of the order. Sheridan doesn't think Clark will be able to do much about it, but soon after a message comes that Earth Force is bombing Mars.
Angry at their indifference, Delenn leaves the station to confront the Grey Council and make them see reason. As she leaves, another ship, the Churchill, arrives. Its CO, Captain Hiroshi, wants to speak with the command staff in person.
The ISN anchor is reporting on the Mars attacks, saying there's been no response from the outer colonies, but another reporter interrupts with information that several of them have broken away, and shock troops are actually moving in on ISN itself. Gunfire is heard, explosions rock the studio and then the feed is abruptly cut.
Hiroshi's news is that Clark is sending his forces to seize direct control of the outer colonies, including Babylon 5. She and Ryan leave, and Sheridan asks Ivanova, Garibaldi and Franklin if they surrender or fight.
- Ivanova: I say fight.
Sheridan: (grim smile) Fight.
In hyperspace, a massive fleet heads toward battle.
Sheridan gives orders for the station to ready for battle, then goes to make a call. Delenn arrives on the Council's cruiser and forces her way in to see them. She delivers a blistering recount of their faults and inaction, accusing them of being lost in their pride, and no longer believing the prophecies that had lead them for a thousand years. She siezes the leader's staff, and breaks it, and the Council. She then calls those who will to follow her as she storms out, five of the hooded figures following after her.
Back on the station, Sheridan makes a call to his father, since he doesn't know when he'll be able to again. The elder Sheridan reminds him of the first lesson he taught him, "Never start a fight, but always finish it."
In C&C, Sheridan makes an announcement via Draal's holographic projections:
- In the last few hours we have learned that warships are coming this way from Earth. Their orders are to seize command of Babylon 5 by force. As commanding officer and military governor of Babylon 5, I cannot allow this to happen. President Clark has violated the Earth Alliance constitution by dissolving the Senate, declaring martial law, and personally ordering the bombing of civilian targets on the Mars Colony. He is personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people! Following these attacks, Orion 7 and Proxima III have broken away from the Earth Alliance and declared independence. Babylon 5 now joins with them. As of this moment Babylon 5 is seceding from the Earth Alliance. We will remain an independent state until President Clark is removed from office. At the end of this current crisis, anyone who wishes to leave for Earth is free to do so. Meanwhile, for you own safety I urge everyone to stay in your quarters until this is over. That is all.
With that, they make final preparations and wait for the attack, which comes moments later as the attack force comes through the jumpgate and the lead ship, the Agrippa, orders them to surrender. The Alexander, Churchill, and station launch fighters, while Sheridan tries to talk them down, but the loyalist forces commence their attack.
Fighting is fierce and losses are heavy on both sides. Garibaldi goes to repel a boarding crew, but the Narns rush ahead of him and get caught in a killing zone. The Churchill takes catastrophic damage and rams an enemy destroyer, destroying both ships. Ivanova collides with another fighter and is forced to eject, while the boarding action has devolved into a giant brawl in close quarters. Finally the last enemy ship is destroyed, but almost immediately a new wave arrives. Then a set of jump points form right next to the station, but it's three Minbari warcruisers, and the White Star. Delenn declares that Babylon 5 is under her protection, and when the loyalists try to protest, she practically dares them to try something. The attack fleet leaves rather than engage Minbari ships.
Afterwards, Ryan and Sheridan are discussing their situation, specifically, their pilots. Many of the Churchill's fighters are homeless, and Ryan asks Sheridan to take them on. He is going to leave, to split Earth Force's attention, and to look for any other rebel ships. Sheridan goes to meet with Delenn, finding Garibaldi seeing the Nightwatch members off station, the ones they know about, at least. They'll have to be on guard for sabotage for a while.
Delenn arrives and Sheridan expresses his gratitude, then Ivanova comes and takes them to see something. A large crowd is gathered in the Zocalo who begin applauding as Sheridan and the others appear.
This episode contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming: When the EAS Agrippa is nearly destroyed, Sheridan calls it to ask its surrender, but he calls it the Roanoke instead (the Roanoke being the other Omega-class destroyer that came in the initial attack).
- Badass Boast: Delenn has two:
- To a Minbari trying to prevent her from seeing the Grey Council: "Sixteen years I served the council. I was the chosen of Dukhat to replace him. I held him when he died. His blood is on my hands, his spirit in my eyes... his word on my lips. You will stand aside in his name and mine, or, in Valen's name, I will tear this ship apart with my bare hands until I find them!"
- To the Clark-loyalist fleet: "Only one Human captain has survived battle with a Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else." The assault fleet proceeds to RUN LIKE HELL.
- Berserk Button: Both Sheridan's and Delenn's are pressed in this episode.
- Delenn's is hit when she hears that the Grey Council refuses to take a stand, saying "the problems of others are not our concern." Delenn... takes exception to this. It's a good thing Minbari aren't supposed to kill other Minbari, because her facial expression when she's told that this was their response is positively murderous.
- Sheridan's is visibly hit when Clark starts bombing Mars, which has rejected martial law.
- Big Damn Heroes: Delenn shows up just as it seems Earthforce is about to overrun the station — with three Minbari war cruisers and the White Star.
- Boarding Party: Earthforce sends one to try and take the station. It doesn't end well for them.
- Bullying a Dragon: The Clark-loyalist reinforcements attempting to give orders to three Minbari cruisers, despite Sheridan being the only human to ever win a battle against the Minbari fleet. Delenn's reminder of this has them retreat before it becomes lethal.
- Bus Crash: Hague is killed in action before reaching Babylon 5. (Behind the scenes, his actor was double-booked to appear on Deep Space Nine, as Major Ryan explains in an outtake).
- Bystander Syndrome: As part of toeing a fine line, ISN kept mum about all the atrocities going on outside of Earth. But when Clark sends his forces after ISN anyway, Rick, another reporter, interrupts Jane to try to tell the audience the truth before they're silenced.
- Call-Back: The Narns in Security are shown prominently, much to Londo's annoyance. From here until the end of the series, whenever Security personnel are shown, there will usually be a Narn or two among them.
- Continuity Nod:
- In "Exogenesis", Ivanova felt Lt. Corwin out about obeying a direct order. He said at the time that it wasn't his call to make. When Babylon 5 secedes, she checks with him; "You okay?" He's just fine, much to his surprise.
- When Delenn leaves the Grey Council's chamber, five members of the Council follow her out. Viewers may recall that Delenn's replacement (Neroon) was from the Warrior Caste, and given the content of Delenn's speech, the four who stay behind are likely from that caste.
- Day of the Jackboot: The declaration of martial law and siege and capture of ISN marks the completion of Earth's slide into fascism.
- The Dead Have Names: After the Alexander destroys the Clarkstown early in the episode, Major Ryan tells the other bridge officer the name of the Clarkstown's captain, and mentions some details about his family, having met them a few years before.
- Deadline News: The feed is cut as the ISN studio comes under attack by government forces. The last we see of the broadcast is debris hitting the desk in front of the two reporters, Jane and Rick, after which the station goes off the air.
- Slightly defied, as the female ISN anchor is seen in Season Four back at her old job.
- Dumbass Has a Point: By forcing the issue and making a head-on charge into the boarding Earthforce troops, the Narns forced them to engage in battle with them and the Babylon 5 security troops in a relatively enclosed area away from the civilian population... and from some of their troops making their way to the command deck.
- Faceless Goons: The pilots bombing Mars are wearing opaque helmets. The crews of the attacking Earthforce ships are also never seen, just voices on the radio.
- Forgotten Superweapon: When the second wave of Earth ships arrives, it seems to be implied that Sheridan would give up, but what about asking Draal to use Epsilon's firepower to support his side as was previously discussed? Sure, it wouldn't be good for optics, but this is life and death.
- Word of God from JMS - Sherridan didn't want to give Clarke the excuse to try again and de-ligitimize B5 in the eyes of the Earth Force rank and file. President Clark has the Shadows as allies and they would ambush the station later in the series.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When the Gunship Rescue forces the second Earth Alliance task force to jump out, they do not use the nearby jumpgate they arrived through a moment ago before advancing on the station. They are in such a rush to get out they open their own jump point.
- Held Gaze: The purely platonic variant between best friends and True Companions Sheridan and Ivanova, when she leaves the command deck to join the Starfuries and they see each other in person for what they know might very well be the last time. Fortunately, it isn't.
- Head-in-the-Sand Management: Delenn accuses the Council this, standing by as the Shadows' influence grew. It's true that Delenn had been doing the same, but she had been quietly making preparations. The Council had outright stated that they were doing nothing, as they believed it wasn't really happening.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- When the Churchill is too damaged to fight any more, they ram another destroyer, enabling B5 and the Alexander to take care of the rest of the enemy ships.
- Rick clearly knows what reporting against Clark will bring him, but the bombing of civilian targets and military forces storming the ISN headquarters are things he cannot ignore and before things get worse, he will do his job as a reporter and tell the truth.
- Hollywood Tactics: Garibaldi arranges a sensible defense to repel the invaders, but the Narns don't listen and charge headlong to the entry point. Garibaldi is forced to abandon the defensive position to back them up.
- Honor Before Reason: The Narns' desire to defend their new home, honor the trust shown in them by B5 Command Staff and repay them for giving them a place to live may be the primary reason why they charged forward, instead of waiting for the bad guys to come for them.
- I Kiss Your Hand: Sheridan to Delenn, the first time he sees her after she comes riding to his rescue.Sheridan: I want you to know that seeing your face at that moment was probably the single finest moment of my life.
Delenn: It seems this is the only home we have left. How could I abandon, as you say, my partner?
- I Warned You: Delenn's righteously indignant speech before the Grey Council, in which she reminds them she's been telling them for three years.
- Leeroy Jenkins: The Narns on Garibaldi's defense force rush ahead him and straight into enemy fire, getting a lot of them killed in the process.
- Line in the Sand: Sheridan gives this line to everyone in C&C before the battle. One background extra decides to Opt Out; everyone else stays.
- Moment Killer: Really, Ivanova, Garibaldi, and Franklin? You couldn't have given our lovebirds one more minute together?
- Oh, Crap!:
- Sheridan's face when he is informed that four jump points are forming right on top of them. Luckily for him, it's a coldly furious Delenn with the White Star, three Minbari war cruisers, and no intention of allowing Babylon 5 to be overrun.
- Just before that, Corwin's reaction to the news that a second wave of Earth destroyers was attacking.
- Said second wave gets the hell out of B5 space when they realize the fact the Minbari are protecting the only Earthforce captain who managed to defeat a Minbari warship means they're screwed.
- Old-School Dogfighting: Seen when the two sides of Starfuries engage each other.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- A single Bridge Bunny leaves the deck when Sheridan gives permission for anyone to do so before the battle, in a deliberate subversion of the typical scene where everyone shows Undying Loyalty at such an order.
- Note that when retreating, the Earthforce reinforcements don't bother using the Jumpgate they came in through, they just hightail it out with their own jump point.
- Screw You, Elves!: Delenn lets the Grey Council have it for their absurdly aloof view of what's going on at B5.
- Slow Clap: At the end when the crowd shows their approval of Sheridan's actions.
- Snowy Screen of Death: When ISN goes off the air.
- Tempting Fate: Corwin after the two opposing Earth Force destroyers are destroyed.Corwin: It's a good thing [the battle] ended when it did. We wouldn't have been able to take much more. [his board beeps] Oh, no!
[Cue second wave of Earth Force destroyers.]
- Vertigo Effect: One on Sheridan right after Hiroshi informs him that Earth Force is coming to seize control of the station.
- The War of Earthly Aggression: When colonial governments refuse to implement the illegal laws, Clark responds with force.
- We Used to Be Friends: Major Ryan personally knew the commander of the Clarkstown. He lampshades the worst part about fighting in a Civil War: You know every single person you kill in battle.
- Wham Episode: The station and other colonies break away from earth. Delenn faces down—and breaks—the Grey Council.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Rick's fate is never revealed.
- Similarly, two of the four Earthforce ships that arrive with the first wave to attack B5 simply disappear after their first appearance. Word of God is that they were destroyed in the fighting; this was filmed, but cut from the final episode for time.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Delenn delivers one to the Grey Council for their inaction.
- You Are in Command Now: Major Ryan takes over after General Hague is killed in combat.